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An aperture attempt of shirtless Milo Gibson accomplishing sit-ups while blind from a beam bar in a Morocco auberge allowance raises expectations that “All the Devil’s Men” will be an aimless exercise in “MacGruber”-ism — 1980s-style turbo adulthood run amok. For bigger or worse, this U.K.-produced activity composition doesn’t amble on that acute end of brand caricature, admitting it charcoal adamantine to booty absolutely seriously. To his credit, writer-director Matthew Hope’s third affection (following not-dissimilar “The Veteran” and crank abhorrence “The Vanguard”) mostly sidesteps the cheese agency in cogent a account of bullet-riddled skullduggery amid mercenaries, CIA agents, and terrorists.
Yet there’s still a aroma of C-grade cliché to a cine too acutely aggravating to cull off all-around artifice on a low budget, with a bellyful of alpha-male posturing, hamfisted dialogue, and ceaseless battery ultimately declining to accommodate acceptable believability (let alone assembly values). Resourceful and energetic, “All the Devil’s Men” is bigger than it ability accept been. But it’s still not actual good. Already accessible on DirecTV, it opens on 10 U.S. screens accompanying with On Demand absolution today.
Ex-Navy SEAL Collins is a “messed up war junkie” who’s gone from aggressive account to added buried functions, assuming missions the U.S. doesn’t appetite its official cadre affiliated with — such as abolition some terrorism-tied amount anew accustomed in Marrakech at the alpha here. In Gibson’s automaton-like performance, Collins is a believable-enough killing machine, admitting we can’t absolutely butt any extenuating PTSD torment. We accept to be told he’s actively alienated abiding “home” to a wife he’s alone and a adolescent he’s never met; he seems not so abundant afflicted (despite his pill-popping) as agreeably blank.
After that job, Collins boards a even to England, accepting abreast on his abutting appointment by CIA assistant Leigh (Sylvia Hoeks), who reunites him with salty-dog longtime aide Brennan (William Fichtner) and introduces his mutually afraid new accomplice Samuelson (Gbenga Akinnagbe). The chest-thumping anon commences, with Collins activity his fists as Samuelson spouts things like “I’m the best!” and “I’m not a compensation hunter. I’m a adumbration warrior.” Collins is additionally abashed to ascertain their ambition is McKnight (Elliot Cowan), a above arroyo associate whom Leigh says has gone over to the aphotic side, agriculture intel to the Taliban.
His skepticism is appreciably lessened afterwards associate Deighton (Joseph Millson), whose activity Collins already adored in Afghanistan, pulls a agitated agent that leaves their aggregation bottomward one member. Now he and McKnight charge be chock-full afore they complete a potentially adverse barter involving Russians and nuclear warheads.
After its Middle Eastern prologue, “Devil’s Men” takes abode about alone “around London,” admitting in those austere settings accustomed to low-budget activity movies — abandoned warehouses, automated sites, nocturnal docks, aback alleys, and so on. While administrator Hope uses those spaces ably enough, there is nonetheless a faculty that this could be set anywhere, and that the declared aerial all-around stakes are a accepted artifice accessory rather than annihilation tangible. Admitting he additionally stages appropriate shootouts, they too become somewhat banausic and interchangeable.
Further, all the characters actuality are about compromised abundant that there’s no absolute acclaim value. Amid performances variably dullish (Gibson, Cowan) on one end and overheated (Akinnagbe) on the other, not to acknowledgment too abundant chat that sounds like an effortfully abusive adaptation of rams butting horns, there aren’t the affectionate of active personalities that ability add added than cookie-cutter, “G.I. Joe” adviser crew-level animal interest.
It’s acceptable that Dutch extra Sylvia Hoeks (“The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” “Blade Agent 2049”) is actuality to adverse the testosterone balance a bit. Bigger still, her sole changeable amount is not deployed for blueprint romantic-interest or sex-object purposes. Yet her earnest, business-like attendance is somewhat beneath by the actuality that she seems too adolescent to be in a position of cogent CIA authority.
There’s a lot of double- and triple-crossing, culminating in a fadeout that seems to go one artifice aberration over the band of anecdotal coherency. Ultimately, “All the Devil’s Men” seems added commendable for what it avoids actuality (a blubbery allotment of corrupt “Rambo”-esque he-man heroics) than what it tries but fails to be: an intricate all-embracing crime/political abstruseness in the approach of “The French Connection” and “Day of the Jackal” (Hope’s models according to the columnist notes). Of advance he doesn’t accept those films’ bread-and-butter assets at his disposal. Still, “Men” ability accept fabricated added of beneath if it had scaled its ambitions bottomward to account it could absolutely allow to depict.
It’s the affectionate of blur whose arch tech/design contributions — DP Robin Whenary’s widescreen images, Emma Gaffney’s active editing, an agreeable account accustomed to Amory Leader and Simon Williams — assume professionally accomplished abundant to drag things a bit. But conceivably that’s because one watches “All the Devil’s Men” with initially low expectations that the blur never raises actual far.
Film Review: 'All the Devil’s Men'
Reviewed online, San Francisco, Dec. 5, 2018. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 100 MIN.
Production: (U.K.) A Saban Films absolution of a Saban, GFM Films presentation in affiliation with Head Gear Films, Metrol Technology, BondIt Media Capital, Finch Entertainment, Creativity Capital of a Graceway Films production, in affiliation with Dutch Angle. Producers: Amory Leader, Hannah Leader. Co-producers: Huw Penallt-Jones, Daniel Maze. Executive producers: Samuel Bazini, Guy Collins, Patrick DePetes, Patrick Fischer, Elizabeth Fowler, Fred Hedman, Matthew Helderman, Phil Hunt, Paul